Friday, December 6, 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful

When good things don't come looking for you, I've found that sometimes you have to go looking for them. Lately, with life taking all manner of not-so-great twists and turns, I take a moment - even just one little moment - to find a reason to be cheerful (even if it's just for that moment). My two favourite sources right now won't come as a great surprise to you...

Music and Comedy

I have very recently stumbled across the wonderfully Mod Miles Kane and this song in particular is on heavy rotation -

And I've rediscovered the absurd, surreal and hilarious Mighty Boosh...

(Again Blogger is being weird about posting clips)

How do you cheer yourself up a bit when times are tough?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Interesting times

Some challenging times are afoot at the moment, with serious illness in my family. I am literally taking each day at a time, and working hard to stay calm and positive.

I have all sorts of things to tempt me in the evenings - I am really enjoying reading Persuasion, I am cross-stitching a very sweet little folk design, long-stitching a pretty alpine scene and I have finally found my cure-all knitting book The Knitting Problem-Solver (by Tish Lilie) because I want to have a proper stab at moss stitch.
Having watched a great documentary on the Amish last week, my sweet husband has been suggesting we switch off the telly in the evenings. It would be the perfect chance to get some of these things done. But I find by nightfall I am tired and have only the energy to watch tv and silly tv at that (Snog, Marry, Avoid anyone?) It gives me a welcome opportunity to put my brain in neutral and be distracted by the passing parade for awhile.

Ah, well. I think it's important to follow what you feel you should do, what feels right for you. Sometimes even in the smallest of ways, we need to nurture ourselves just a little and take some time out.

Lately I have also rediscovered my love of Blur, who I haven't given much thought (or an ear) to since I got into the whole Britpop thing in the mid-90s. I adore this song ("The Universal"), and its sentiment. It seems about right, right now.

Blogger doesn't seem to want to embed it, so here's a link -

Wishing you happy days, friends.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bomboons, anyone?

Image from wikipedia

Being mildly obsessed with all things Georgian/Regency at present (I should never read Jane Austen), while also planning for once to stick by my plan of a homemade Christmas, I have discovered The Complete Confectioner, written by Hannah Glass and Maria Wilson in about 1800. I believe that Mrs Glass was something of a celebrity chef in her day. Yesterday I tried Orange Bomboons. Essentially, they are sugar and orange zest melted together in a heavy saucepan, left to cool and then cut into whatever shape you like. I am not thrilled with the result but my tasting team here (the DH, Mum and Dad) have pronounced them to be very good. Perhaps they are just being nice to me! Anyway, if you care to take a look -

The wonderful Supersizers team (Giles Coren and Sue Perkins) also went Regency...(and by the way if you are not strong of stomach, do not watch the segment with the cheese)...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rock Me

I love these rocks that I picked up on the beaches at Byron Bay. They have a soft greenish tinge to them. I'd like to make them into some jewellery but I'm not quite sure how. What do you think?

You might've noticed that I've made a few little changes to the blog. What do you think? In particular, what do you think of the new font?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In the tropics

As I mentioned yesterday, we spent a lovely week recently in Byron Bay, which is in northern New South Wales, about 1600 kilometres from Melbourne. Near to the Queensland border, it is a world away from Melbourne, and at times it's hard to believe that we're really in the same country.

The weather is entirely tropical, with humid conditions, bright sunshine and blue skies every day.  We found an excellent vegetarian cafe which kept us sated (Manna Haven if you're ever in the area -, walked on the wide beaches and collected pebbles and shells and went for some really nice drives in the surrounding forests, which are really so very different from Victoria. In short, we did not too much at all and it was great.

Hot weather is not really my thing and - of course - I did get sunburnt (do I ever learn?) but it was also amazing to be reminded of just how big Australia is and how different one area can be from another.

My one complaint would be that the op-shops up there are not a patch on ours (I know, I know - I was thrifting while surrounded by a tropical paradise)!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Good Baked Goods

Time flies, as they say. Sorry not to have been blogside for a little while. We took a mini-break to Byron Bay (more on that shortly) and then there were some illness and work dramas thrown into the mix.

With Melbourne's return to cool weather, I have been baking happy these last few days. I started out with Applesauce Snackin' Cake from which worked out a treat and yesterday I went for Good Plain Buns from the venerable Mrs Beeton ( Very nice with jam and a cup of tea!

TO MAKE GOOD PLAIN BUNS. 1730. INGREDIENTS.—1 lb. of flour, 6 oz. of good butter, 1/4 lb. of sugar, 1 egg, nearly 1/4 pint of milk, 2 small teaspoonfuls of baking-powder, a few drops of essence of lemon. Mode.—Warm the butter, without oiling it; beat it with a wooden spoon; stir the flour in gradually with the sugar, and mix these ingredients well together. Make the milk lukewarm, beat up with it the yolk of the egg and the essence of lemon, and stir these to the flour, &c. Add the baking-powder, beat the dough well for about 10 minutes, divide it into 24 pieces, put them into buttered tins or cups, and bake in a brisk oven from 20 to 30 minutes. Time.—20 to 30 minutes. Average cost, 1s. Sufficient to make 12 buns. Seasonable at any time.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bits and Bobs

I came across the thrifter's holy grail recently...I found a vintage quilt in an op-shop! I could hardly believe my eyes...and it was only eight dollars. I have since given it a good wash and an air-out and it is now gracing our previously very dull beige couch (the little orange dragon is also a recent op-shop win - she's made of felt and her name is Doris). The couch looks especially lovely under the window in the Spring sunshine!

In other news, I have been...

  • Falling in love with A.S. Byatt's books - first up Ragnarok
  • Making chocolate fudge 
  • Loving the re-runs of Doctor Who on ABC-2

What's news with you?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

white on white

Hardanger embroidery
Image from

Image from

Whitework with seeding and matting
Image from

I am very keen on Whitework at the moment. Put simply, whitework is embroidery sewn in white thread onto white material. There are various stitching styles within the genre - drawn thread work, Hardanger embroidery (so named because it originated in Hardanger in Norway), Mountmellick embroidery (originally from Ireland), broderie anglaise and reticella.

I love the gentle beauty of it.

So I've ordered a a vintage design ready-printed onto a lace-trimmed piece of linen from Etsy and I am going to give it a go. I'll show you the results.

What are you stitching or creating at the moment?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


I have to show you this lovely old battered stem of an artificial flower that I found in an old cigar box of bits and bobs. I believe it belonged to my grand-aunt. I like to imagine that perhaps it was part of her wedding outfit.

And did anyone watch the Lars von Trier film Melancholia, which screened on tv here on Saturday night? Oh my, what a film. I was ready to dismiss it after its very arthouse opening but I am a fan of Kirsten Dunst, so I sat with it. What a depiction of mental illness, dysfunctional families and, truly, melancholia. And the ending...I'm not a fan of hyperbolic movie reviews, but it is genuinely haunting.

I would love your thoughts if you've seen Melancholia.

Monday, September 30, 2013


I have had some lovely op-shop finds op-shop in particular seems to be yielding some real goodies. I found this sweet little set of Irish, hand-embroidered linen, still attached to its packaging, with this beautiful wee inscription on the back...

A wonderful old book, The Modern Woman's Home Doctor, full of all sorts of information and illustrations from - I'm guessing - the 30s or 40s (given that there is information on air-raid-proofing your home... The book was a dollar. Strange, strange pricing in op-shops sometimes.

And a bag of theatre programmes from 1950s Melbourne. Most hardly touched. I suspect the owner worked for one of the theatres, because there are multiple copies of some. The price for the bag? Two dollars.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Once more with felting

I bought a needle felting kit on Ebay months ago and I needle felted one forlorn little teddy bear head and then promptly forgot about the whole thing. On the weekend I just felt like making something and after rummaging around for a while in all my crafty stuff, I came across the kit. By Sunday afternoon I had this little guy! I really quite like him.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Flower Fleur Blume

Spring has now well and truly arrived. The weather has been grey and indifferent for so long, I had forgotten how warm warmth can be! The front yard, as I mentioned in my last post, is literally bursting with all of the flowers that began their lives under my grandma's careful nurturing many years ago and which now appear every year as a beautiful testament to her and her deep love of plants and gardening.

It's funny but these photos I took remind me so much of the playing cards that she bought for me when I was a child. They were flash cards of a sort and each one showed a flower and gave its name in several languages. Although she loved the Sturt's Desert Pea and also the flower of her home state, the Waratah, European plants and flowers were her first love. And so I often spent my visits to her house identifying alpine flowers from far distant lands. 

More music today...pretty, meandering and a little strange. Just the way I like it!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gentle Spring

Pussy Willow, picked on a Sunday drive to Warrandyte

Spring is starting to show itself. The front garden is beginning to bloom with all of its lovely self-sown flowers (they are the children of plants my grandmother planted many moons ago) and the air is warm and sweet. As it gets noticeably warmer, I have to remind myself not to fear the hot summer days that will follow Spring, but to enjoy what is here right now.

A trip to the op-shop this morning yielded treasure in the form of three Beatrix Potter books - The Tale of Ginger and Pickles, The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes and (of course) The Tale of Peter Rabbit. I bought them to sell online, but now I'm not sure if I can part with them. That's how our house has ended up full of books!

This is such a pretty song. I thought you might like it. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Disappointed Cat says...

I made this little guy a day or two ago after seeing a similar idea for a felt brooch in Pip Lincolne's Meet me at Mike's book. At first, I didn't like him because I didn't think he was very cute. But now I kind of like his rather affronted expression. Sort of like Grumpy Cat but more...Disappointed Cat.

I found two lovely looking cookbooks at the op-shop this morning - The Vegan Table and The Joy of Vegan Baking, both by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. The recipes look delicious and easy, two things that I have wondered about the possibilty of with vegan cooking in the past. I have never cooked vegan before. Have you? Any tips?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Underground Overground

I once read that the more you try to diet and restrict the intake of a particular food, the more likely you are to crave that food above all else. For example, chocolate (possibly doesn't hold true for cabbage). So it is that, several weeks after declaring a major household purge on all items that are neither beautiful nor useful (thank you William Morris) or are simply too numerous, I find that I am trawling Etsy and Ebay to sate a few little obsessions, looking for more stuff to fill the house with.

Namely, Wombles and Kiwiana (NZ kitsch - like Australiana).

Suddenly I can't get enough of Tomsk, Tobermory, Great Uncle Bulgaria and the rest, nor paua shell and hei tikis. I suspect it's the thrill of the chase, more than anything. I have resisted the urge to buy so far, holding myself to a cooling-off period instead.

Do you have any little fascinations on the go at the moment?

Friday, August 16, 2013

This Charming Man

 In case you want to go back to the musical source, this lyric comes from The Smiths song "Sheila Take a Bow"

I love it when someone does something really clever but it has to be quirky clever - that's the best clever of all. I'm on Facebook, sometimes against my better judgement, and as The Smiths tragic you now know me to be, I have 'liked' a Smiths page. On that page yesterday was a link to a truly wonderful site - 'This Charming Charlie' ( which is a play on The Smiths song 'This Charming Man' because this site brings together the words of The Smiths with the figures of the Peanuts cartoons. Putting the serious, melancholic lyrics of Morrissey into the mouths of the perpetually sunny Peanuts kids (with the possible exception there of Charlie Brown) is such beautiful fun but also such beautiful pathos as well as being somehow so apt. Genius! I contacted the very talented creator of This Charming Charlie, Lauren LoPrete, and she very kindly gave me permission to post some of the images from her site here.

Lucy and a line from "How Soon is Now"

Schroeder and "Panic"

Lucy and "That joke isn't funny anymore"

Sally ponders the imponderable - "How Soon is Now"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

To talk again

I have been missing my grandmother lately. I'm not quite sure exactly why. We live in what was my grandparents' house, so I guess they are never far from my thoughts and also they were the only grandparents I really knew - my mother's parents spent a lot of time ill and passed away when I was very small (my maternal grandfather died before I even arrived).

But I have been thinking lately that perhaps it's because I have changed just a little bit in my interests since Grandma died in 2008. As you know, I am now completely into knitting, sewing and baking - things that she would have loved me to have shown an interest in. She was very accomplished in all of these pursuits and I would love now to talk to her about how she does things - this stitch or that cup of flour. That's not to say that she would have been a patient, sweet-natured teacher! I can still recall being told in no mollycoddling or uncertain terms how to knit when I asked at age ten. But it would just be nice to ask and to talk again.

And so I made this very tasty currant cake yesterday from one of my great-aunt's cookbooks, The Kookaburra Cookery Book. I'm thinking it's 1920s at the latest. With lots of nutmeg, it even tastes old-fashioned, reminding me so much for the flapjacks my grandma made every week, without fail, so that there was always something on hand for visitors who came to tea.

Currant Cake

1 cup butter
Half-cup milk
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
3 cups self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
Half-pound currants

Combine. Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour (keep an eye on it) at 180 degrees celsius.

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's the little things that make me so happy

 Five gorgeous little animal postcards from Ikea

I know that things aren't supposed to make me happy. I know that I should delight in the people and not the objects around me. And of course I do. But sometimes, a little acquisition or two can raise the spirits. And they don't even have to be very large.

A delightfully weird Japanese exercise book with a German cover from (the Japanese store) Daiso

Owl cushion cover from Ikea

Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs now have Smurfs in them (oh no, there are nine to collect...)

And two Bowie albums ("Low" and "Heroes") on sale from JB-Hi in the CD player...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Touche crochet

I can't crochet. I. can't. crochet. I can't crochet! I have tried and I have tried and I have tried but I just can't crochet. I am totally fascinated by all of the different ways that stitches can lock together to make a whole gorgeous thing and while my knitting has improved, I cannot crochet. I have watched You Tube videos. I have read books. I have studied diagrams. And yet.

Yesterday I thought I had made real progress. I managed a line of chain stitch ('casting on' in crochet world, I guess) and then a first row. But then I had to 'turn'. Just flip your work over and start again, the nice lady on the You Tube video calmly said. I flipped. Then I flipped it back the other way. Then I flipped it upside down. My yarn tail got in the way. I flipped again. I could feel the old, familiar crochet fog filling my mind. Damn!

Does anyone know how to crochet? If you do, where did you learn?

At least I've had a little bit of Swedish pop to keep me calm...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spring Clean

I am in the midst of a major pre-Spring clean. Lying around the house last week without anything to distract me, I realised that there a lot of things about the house that I'm not happy with and want to change. Now. A lot of those things hinge around the fact that we have way too much stuff for the space we're in. So, on the weekend, I attacked the kitchen cupboards, finding a disturbing amount of dried and canned goods that were well and truly expired (2009 called, and they don't want that cake mix back) Out it all went! I moved all of my cooking and crafting books onto the now cleared kitchen shelves so that I can use the kitchen with its big table space as a crafting area during the day,  and all of the foodie stuff is now neatly stowed away in the now almost empty kitchen cupboards.

The living room is basically ok. I am working on getting a lot of the framed photos off surfaces and onto a 'memory wall'. Our masses of books I am slowly culling to either sell (hopefully) or send to the op-shop. The bedroom with its rising damp issues (love old houses!) is the domain of my husband at present, given that it's problems are structural rather than cosmetic. This leaves me staring down the barrel of the abomination that is the study which is currently a home office/craft room/storage room and dressing room.

So much stuff.

But some little part of the old bower-bird me has rebelled. I have found pieces of Crown Lynn Genuine Ironstone (made in New Zealand) ceramic in op-shops before and have been gently (but not overwhelmingly) charmed by its sweet 60s patterns. Yesterday at the op-shop, though, I found this beauty. I bought the two bread-and-butter plates that they had but I talked myself out of the four matching dinner plates. But I'm going back for them today... I'll just throw out some of our old, boring dinner plates. Then we'll need the new ones. Right? Right?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taking the 'meh' out of reading

Image from

I don't know whether it's the general blahdom of having been sick or that when I was sick, I literally couldn't read (my eyes were blurry), but I just cannot find a book to light my fire right now (and I don't mean literally, fellow Melburnian winter-sufferers). Unfortunately I am not one of those diligent folk who can plough on with a book when it's getting a bit boring. It has to speak to me or forget it. I need colour and movement...!

So it is that I am part way through A Game of Thrones, part way through Bring Up the Bodies and part way through Dead to the World and nothing is doing it for me. I can read a few pages but then...meh. 

Tell me - please - what are you reading and loving right now?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Soup for the body and soul

I have been really unwell this week, having had a bad reaction to some medication I'm on right now (or was on). It's been totally unexpected and, frankly, pretty bloody horrible. I am very gradually feeling better and it's really only yesterday and today that I've felt I could eat with anything approaching enjoyment (or with a view to keeping it down). But what to eat? It's always a big decision as to what you should start putting back into your body after it's had a lot taken out of it.

Nice, wholesome bready carbs have appealed, as have fresh fruit and vegetables. But bread, fruit and veg just as I imagine them in my mind's (tummy's) eye! Just as I want it. That's when my father's soup swam into my mind. Dad has been making soup for as long as I can remember and it is just so warm and thick and vegetably and good. I put in an order over the phone for some yesterday afternoon (ahem!) and this morning, lo and behold, Dad arrived with a jar of the good stuff, half of which I polished off with joy this lunchtime just passed.

So good.

A bite of home.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pretty in Pink

Last night I watched, with a surprising amount of enjoyment, the teen classic Pretty in Pink. I was a teenager when this film came out (1986) and it was huge - yet I never saw it (I'm not sure why). The soundtrack was great - New Order, The Smiths and the lovely "If you leave" by OMD at the end - and the cast strong.

It was everything you wanted your teenage years to be like - nice boys and dances and crazy clothes and first kisses. Really sweet. I said as much to my husband this morning over breakfast and I wondered if kids today ('kids today!') still enjoyed such comparative innocence, given what we're told by the media about the various horrors of the Internet. But as my husband reminded me, "It was hard at the time". And so it was! Looks like I was watching Pretty in Pink through rose-coloured glasses...! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Going to New Zealand, even for just a week, gave me some time to reflect. Holidays always do that for me, which is one of the reasons I love them so much. Away from the everyday concerns and occupations, my mind has the opportunity to focus back in on what's really going on, what's at the core. There are changes afoot for me and not only changes on how I spend my time. I am changing how I look at that time and how I look at myself.

Time to stop marking time and wasting time - time to really get as much as I can out of life. And that doesn't necessarily mean taking up skydiving or bungee jumping, but rather just finding real, simple contentment in every moment and if that isn't there, then stopping to ask why and trying to do something about it.

I'll keep you posted.

Because, after all, we can't all be Timelords, able to travel back and forth through time at will! I am completely loving the re-runs of Dr Who on the telly at the moment, with Christopher Ecclestone as The Doctor. I didn't really warm to him first time around but I'm liking his no-nonsense style very much now. This episode, in which his sidekick Rose Tyler intervenes in her father's death and causes all sorts of time-y problems, played right into my long-standing love of all things time travel.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Aotearoa - the Land of the Long White Cloud

On the road to Rotorua

We are just back from a lovely little break in New Zealand. I had a paper to give at a conference in Wellington but we had been planning on a mini-break for some time, so we decided to tie the two together. Wellington is a really lovely city - big enough to keep us entertained with its great museums, numerous bookshops and beautiful, vast public gardens to walk in - but not so big that the tourist with a handful of days to spend there feels swamped. We stayed near the excellent Cuba St too (sort of like Brunswick St, Melbournites) so we weren't ever stuck for somewhere terrific to eat either (potato curry with roti, I'm talking about you)!

On the road to Rotorua

After the conference, we made the six-hour drive north to Rotorua, NZ's well-known spa region. I must admit that I found the town itself a little too touristy but the natural spaces outside of Rotorua are just breathtakingly beautiful. I was reminded by turn of America and also Norway.

Beautiful native flowers along the path at the Orakei Korako Geothermal Park, outside of Rotorua. The flowers above remind me of wax flowers and the ones below heath but I am not sure exactly what they are...

I was also amazed but how much better New Zealand has brought together its Māori and non-Māori citizens and the important part that Māori culture plays in New Zealand's national outlook. We in Australia have a lot to learn.

We are already planning our next trip - this time to the South Island. Happy Days!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Winter, Solstice and the Fat Lava Cake

Above: A Fat Lava plate

To celebrate the Winter Solstice last Friday, I made a cake which kind of took on an unusual was a plain cake with a base layer of chocolate icing, then orange icing and then grated dark chocolate on top. As soon as I iced it, I decided it looked like a piece of West German Fat Lava ceramic. I love Fat Lava so this was more than ok by me.

Below: My Fat Lava Winter Solstice cake. Or is it the other way around?

Image from

The light is a little yellow in my cake photo but I think this is quite appropriate given the wonderful creamy-yellow hue of the full 'super moon' on the Solstice. Did you see it?

Not my photo! This image is from the Huffington Post.

It has been so cold here lately which has been absolutely perfect for indulging my passion for 'cozy mysteries'. Yes, this is a real genre of writing! Essentially, they are murder-mysteries which happen in cozy locations. I am just finishing off The Lover's Knot by Clare O'Donohue (the crime takes place in a quilt shop) and last week I read Motif for Murder by Laura Childs (the main character runs a scrapbooking shop). So good for sitting in front of the heater! If you're looking for the bleak gore of a Scandinavian 'krimi' forget it, but these are good reads nonetheless and ideal for the crafty amongst us!

Although last night television was completely choked up with news of our current political drama, telly on the whole has been woeful lately - just when we need it most, on cold midwinter nights!! Our answer has been to download some goodies off itunes and we are currently besotted with Hell on Wheels, set in 1870s America. Have you seen it? We polished off Game of Thrones last week but I will say nothing about The Red Wedding...lest I ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

I am loving this song, a great accompaniment to reading a 'cozy' in front of the heater in the evenings. Taken from the Hell on Wheels soundtrack, it is performed by two great Australian singers, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson.

Enjoy x